Friday, December 11, 2009

Marian Keyes: This Charming Man

Okay, not crime fiction. But there are crimes in it.

My soft spot for Marian Keyes continues to be pokeable. As soon as I saw this I nabbed it - and I was the first reader, too! The first to crack the spine. That makes two in one library trip. Almost as good as buying new books!

It's a real brick of a book, must be her thickest yet, and tells the story of three women - well, four really, but the fourth is more minor - who have had a relationship with a politician called Paddy de Courcy. They each get their own section: stylist Lola's is written in the sort of diary style made popular by Bridget Jones, journalist Grace's and her twin sister Marnie's are more traditional narratives (can't remember now if one was first person, don't have the book here and really not important). Interspersed are short paragraphs describing an abusive episode, with no names mentioned. As the book unfolds we find out which woman was being beaten and by whom. The first woman to have her say is Lola, and after ten pages or so I started worrying that the whole book would be in this style, because it's rather tiresome to read. Diary type books are fundamentally flawed, because surely no-one ever writes diaries like that. You don't abbreviate in absurdum yet relate dialogue, you just don't. Like I said, I don't have the book here, but a passage could go something like this:

"Why you here, Dermot" I asked.

"Am here for film night, Lola" replied.

"No film night, Dermot. Have done away with film night. Am tired. Want sleep."

You see my point? I was a bit relieved when the point of view changed to Grace's. However, Lola's parts are needed, because they provide the comic relief necessary between the heavier parts that are Marnie's alcoholism and Grace's worries on that subject (and other things). The Lola bits do feel more "traditional" Keyes, more in her light-hearted style.

The book has a theme subject, and that is abuse of women. All the women have been abused. Your first guess at who the culprit is is probably correct, but it's a bit more clever than that: there are little hints dropped to make you wonder if more of the men featured in the book are sadists, and if you're first assessment of the situation was wrong. It's painted with a broad brush, admittedly, but nevertheless it's well done, because that is what women often face - a perfectly normal-seeming man who isn't.

The "charming man" referred to in the title really isn't, in my opinion, and that is a flaw. There's no way it seems believable that anyone would ever fall for that sleaze, frankly. Charm does work better in person. But I liked the book, several bits were very funny indeed if you know Ireland at all, and the abuse parts made the laughter stick in your throat. As usual the descriptions of an alcoholic sinking way down are fantastic. Marian Keyes may write books with neatly tied up and happy endings, but the fact that she has been through hell always shows. It's never completely rosy and she knows first-hand about the dark side.


Johanna said...

Jag är ju också lite Marian Keyes-entusiast, och gillade This Charming Man - dock hade jag hemskt svårt att läsa Marnies bitar för att de var så helt svarta.

Jag läste The Brightest Star in the Sky för nån vecka sen, dessvärre en besvikelse lite. HMF.

bani said...

Ja hon är ju inte jämn, bruden.